The Building Safety Bill

The Government has published the Building Safety Bill which is said to make the biggest improvements to building safety in many decades. 

The Bill proposes to introduce new obligations on those owning or managing multi-residential buildings.  The structural safety and the type of materials used will become very closely scrutinised alongside the question of fire safety.  The Bill will create obligations to consider retrospective remedial works to existing buildings with fire safety challenges.  The Bill also  introduces the new roles of an accountable person and a Building Safety Manager in respect of a block.

The Bill anticipates the need for access to flats within a building and for the charging and recovery of costs incurred in meeting the new building safety obligations.  Therefore the Bill proposes to introduce implied terms into all relevant leases to ensure appropriate standards are met in respect of building safety.

The Bill provides a mechanism for gaining access to individual flats within a development to carry out the works and this should streamline the process which may currently be cumbersome and expensive when enforcing access provisions under the terms of old leases. 

The Bill proposes to imply a new building safety charge into leases to cover the cost of the building safety works.  The funds raised have to be ring-fenced from other service charges to stop such funds being used as a cross-subsidy towards other works or being applied generally to debt shortfalls on service charge funds.  The charge will include costs incurred or to be incurred and will include, if appropriate, legal fees, other professional fees, fees payable to the regulator, and management costs.

The regime for charging will be similar to the current methods of charging and there will be similar protections for leaseholders as currently exists in relation to service charges. 

Landlords will be subject to a statutory duty to take reasonable steps to ascertain whether any grants may be payable in respect of proposed works or alternatively whether the cost of part or all of the works could be met by a third party, and if so, the Landlord is under an obligation to obtain such funding.  This is a potential ground for future disputes when large costs are to be incurred and where lessees might contend that a landlord has not taken reasonable steps to secure such funding.

The Bill also proposes to extend what is currently a six-year limitation period for defective premises to a longer period of 15 years with that new 15-year period being applied retrospectively.  The Act will also enable private individuals to bring a claim if they suffer harm because work on a dwelling or building has not met building regulation standards.  The Act opens up the possibility of claims against contractors who undertake work on a dwelling as they will be required to ensure the dwelling is fit for habitation when the work is completed.  If there is a breach, then freeholders and leaseholders, including successors in title, will be able to bring a claim for damages. 

Once in force there are likely to be several areas of debate and challenge as the new provisions settle in and the precise scope of the obligations and remedies are understood.

Written by : Mark Oakley (Partner).

If you are a landlord, managing agent or lessee and would like to discuss in more detail how the proposed Building Safety Bill will affect your position, please email: moakley@judge-priestley.co.uk or call 020 8290 7337.